Published Online: March 12, 1997

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Young children in low-income neighborhoods are spending many of their after-school hours in front of televisions, a study from the School-Age Child Care Project says.

Research shows that how children spend time out of school can either enhance or compromise their academic performance and social development. Economically disadvantaged children, who are less likely than other youngsters to attend formal after-school programs, may have the most critical need for the activities those programs provide, says the study from the advocacy and information project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

"I Wish the Kids Didn't Watch so Much TV" focuses on 180 4- to 7-year-olds in Head Start programs, kindergarten, and 1st grade in St. Paul, Minn.; San Jose, Calif.; and Worcester, Mass. The researchers used several methods, including interviews, observation, and focus groups.

Almost two-thirds of the children were home with their mothers during the out-of-school hours, but frequently watched cartoons or played video games for the entire two-hour observation period, the report says.

The researchers also found that while most parents said they were satisfied with their children's after-school-care arrangements, many wanted their children to spend more time reading, working on school assignments, or engaged in recreation or community activities.

To order the report, call (617) 283-2547 or write to the School-Age Child Care Project, Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley, Mass. 02181-8259. The cost is $12.

Eight new sites have been selected for an expansion of the Massachusetts Family Network, an outreach program that provides such services as health, language, and motor-skills screening to families with children from birth to age 3.

Authorized by the state's Education Reform Act of 1993, the network sites provide parents with information about child development and connect them to such services as counseling, child support, and literacy classes.

The additional sites bring the total to 18, serving almost 100 communities across the state. So far, more than 6,500 families have participated in the project.

Funding for the program this year increased to $2.4 million from $1.4 million, making the expansion possible. Each site receives aid ranging from $100,000 to $150,000.

The new sites are: Attleboro, Boston, Everett/Malden, Franklin County, Haverhill, Holyoke, Somerville, and Springfield.

--LINDA JACOBSON ljacobs@epe.org

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